I know it’s a little early for Christmas Wish lists, but I have one item on my list this year that I really hope to get! A treeless saddle for Boomerang!
Admittedly I’ve had my current saddle since I was 12 (14 years for anyone counting)….and after a few growth spurts as a teenager…lets just say it’s less than “fitting”. I have no idea how I’ve lasted this long with a saddle that was a couple sizes too small, it’s kinda embarrassing.
I’ve been thinking about getting a new saddle for a while now, but Treeless never crossed my mind until now, mostly because I had never even heard of it! I have a friend from across the county (Oregon) to thank for my spark into the treeless saddles, Kali from Pony Pros, Kali and her husband Les run an amazing riding program for kids that teaches them about training ponies in a natural way (their own method that involves some of clicker training & even Parelli). All of their ponies (even the lesson ponies) are ridden bitless and in treeless saddles or bareback pads. It’s pretty amazing stuff!
So what is Treeless?
Treeless saddles are typically flexible and move ‘with’ the horse rather than creating a barrier of a stiff tree. Horses move more relaxed and free because no tree is constricting the shoulder. No pressure under the cantle gives relief to short and flat backed horses.
These saddles also provide a very close contact with the horse and help horses and riders with back issues. Many riders find relief from pain because the saddles are so soft and cause less jarring to the rider’s back. Beginner riders learn to feel the rhythm and find balance much faster.
Recently, while at the Equine Extravaganza, I got to meet and talk with a treeless saddle vender. I sat in a few different models, which I found to be surprisingly comfortable (I was a little doubtful at first). I am now pretty thoroughly convinced that treeless is the way to go for me and Boomerang. I regularly ride Boomer bareback at home, because I’ve found that he seems much happier to respond to my aids without a saddle on his back – he’s also lighter and just generally seems to enjoy it more. And since my switch in March to a bitless bridle I’ve been becoming a bigger advocate for the “natural way” in my riding.
So with my decision to go treeless, I went on the hunt for the right saddle. There seems to be a lot of versions out there. You of course have the big brands like Barefoot, Freeform, Ansur, Torison (I’m sure there might be more, but these are the ones I know of) but then you also have the I guess what I could call “knock-offs” which you can find on Ebay and other like sites.
I looked at A LOT of saddles online – some I ruled out because the cantel was too high. For Mounted Games it’s preferable to have a low cantel to make vaulting onto the saddle from the ground much easier. I decided then to nix the “knock-off” ones from ebay, because as much as I liked the price tags (new saddle for $99, yes please), I knew that I would be putting this saddle through the works with all the vaulting I’d be doing – so I wanted something that would hold up. And with a $99 price tag, I doubted this was possible.
In the end (thus far) I think I narrowed it down to a Barefoot saddle. I liked the look of the Freeform, but they had a higher price tag (about $1,500) – and I was going for more a used saddle pricing, and the Barefoot seemed to fit that ($500 – $900). What I also liked about the Barefoot is that it has a VPS Panel System, which basically means it has spine clearance for your horse. A lot of people opposed to treeless saddles complain that they make it so the saddle rests right on the horse’s spine (A treed saddle keeps pressure off the spine) – so with the VPS Panel System this issue is eliminated.
The great thing about Treeless Saddles is that they are designed to fit pretty much any horse. So you don’t have to worry about an ill-fitting tree, with pressure points that hurt your horse – and it also gives you the benefit of ordering online without worry about having to send back tons of saddles.
So even though I feel kinda ok about ordering online – I’d much rather be able to try something on my horse to make sure we both like it first.
Well, wouldn’t you know that Pennsylvania doesn’t seem to be in the forefront of treeless saddles, because all my local tack shops seemed to have no idea what I was talking about. Luckily the Barefoot Company seems to have a retalier in nearby Delaware!
So if you’re listening Santa, I’d like to take a trip there to pick out a new Treeless Saddle!!
And if anyone out there has experience going Treeless let me know. I’ll take all the suggestions I can get – and I’m looking forward to being the only mounted games player in the US sporting a bitless bridle and a treeless saddle Maybe I’ll start a new trend.
What’s on your Christmas Wish List?
Images from the Barefoot Saddle Company.